Should We ‘Scrap’ Black History Month? Part 3: Inland Empire Residents Respond
Several Inland Empire residents were asked to share their opinions about the celebration of Black History Month. They were asked specifically if they thought Black History Month was still relevant in 2017, and to include why or why not.
Ypyani L, Fontana resident said: “No, Black History Month [BHM] is not irrelevant; we need to continue to celebrate it because it speaks to our foundation. Racism has not been defeated, so we must look to our history. Not too long ago the KKK marched proudly in Fontana, I know this not because I was there, or that I learned it in school; I know it because I did the research, and it is all a part of our history. If we do not know and understand our history, we will not know where we are, or where we are going in the future.”
Portia D., San Bernardino resident: “We must know our history; it makes no sense to abolish [BHM]. We need to know more, not less. Youth need to know about more than Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. Our history is rich and vast; what is wrong with these people? It is like Hidden Figures, I did not know about them. We would not have known if someone had not recorded the facts that were later made into a movie. We lost our original culture, but we are resourceful, and we created a new culture. We need our yearly wake-up-to-blackness. Leave [BHM] alone.”
Joyce F., Rialto resident: “If [BHM] is eliminated it makes us obsolete; we disappear. So much of our history has been lost, omitted or deliberately ignored. We must continue to learn so that we can teach from whence we came. We must know and understand history to understand when it is being repeated; like now. The fights that we are currently fighting are the same battles that our parents and grandparents fought. Look how our Civil Rights are being threatened by the current administration. We need [BHM] more than ever before.”
Arby F., Alta Loma resident: “I feel that we should not forget the triumphs and the struggles. Low information, that is what they want, they do not want us to know our history so that they can turn back the clock on our progress; we cannot let that happen.
I think we should get more support from athletes, and we should support those who use their celebrity to stand up for Civil Rights. I think that Collin Kappernick is being punished because he took a stand. We need to support him and yes, we still need [BHM], and no, it is not irrelevant.”
There was unanimous consensus among the four Inland Empire residents with regard to the relevance of Black History Month in 2017. Each responded that Black History Month is still needed and relevant, especially now.
Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and Chair of Africana Studies, California State University-Long Beach, said “Dr. Woodson wanted us to understand ourselves in expansive ways, and to conceive of African history as central to US history, as well as the history of the world.” Karenga, best known as the creator of Kwanzaa, noted that Woodson was especially concerned about the miseducation of the ‘negro’, which is also the title of one of his early books (1933). Woodson attributed the miseducation to “bad” history, and a “cultivated historical amnesia.”
According to Karenga, Woodson’s efforts were a direct response to the social and historical education of black people that was “directed toward disorientation and domination and designed to control Black people’s thinking and deprive them of the capacity of independent thought and self-determination.” Karenga cites Woodson who notes that if you control a person’s thinking, and cultivate a sense of inferiority, “you will not need to tell him to go to the back door. He will go without having to be told, and if there is no back door, he will have one cut for his special benefit.”
A fantasy debate between Cynthia Tucker, Jason Riley, and Carter G. Woodson, while impossible, would have been very interesting. While Tucker and Riley write that due to our progress in Civil Rights Legislation, Black History Month is no longer relevant, Woodson’s theory was that freedom begins in the mind and “fulfills itself in liberating action” (Karenga). Although Woodson died in 1950, before major Civil rights legislation was passed, his work was a foundation for freedom fighters, demonstrators, and Civil Rights leaders.
The main reason Woodson spent his life researching and teaching Black History was to empower his people, and to contribute to the reconstruction of history to include the accomplishments, challenges, and activities of people of African descent. Carter G. Woodson’s ideas were directed toward freedom from the mental and social constraints of racism and in the interest of truth, justice, and social transformation. Woodson’s original goals for Black History Month have not been achieved, so we look forward to celebrating Black History Month for many years to come.
SUBMITTED BY: Sharon Smith-Knight
Karenga, Maulana. “Dr. Maulana Karenga Writes on the Legacy of Carter G. Woodson.” Yourblackworld.net, no date. Web. Retrieved 24 Jul. 2017.
SUBJECTS: Black History Month; Black History Week; Woodson, Carter Godwin, 1875-1950
*Image of Carter G. Woodson. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/news/the-man-behind-black-history-month. Accessed 20 Aug. 2017.